When I was young, I remember asking my father if I could have an air gun. Not just any air gun, a Red Ryder air gun. To my surprise, he didn't tell me that I would shoot my eye out. Instead, he took me to our local gun shop and bought me my very own Red Ryder. I remember taking it out of the box ever so carefully, trying to impress my dad and show him that I knew what I was doing. My dad took me out back when we got home from the store and set up targets for me. He taught me how to hold it right so that I could aim better, he taught me how to hold my breath so I wouldn't shake while holding the gun, and he taught me how to shoot. I remember the sound of the pellets loading into the gun, my nerves tingling as the moment I had been waiting for finally came. I cocked the gun, took aim, took a deep breath, squeezed the trigger...and missed. Man was I disappointed.
Directed by Bob Clark, A Christmas Story is set in a small town in Indiana during the 1940's. It is a story about a boy Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his quest to make sure that the gift he has always dreamed of is under the tree on Christmas morning. This isn't just any gift; we are talking about "The Holy Grail" of Christmas gifts...the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot, Range Model Air Rifle.
Ralphie sets up an elaborate plan he believes is infallible. He begins to spread hints around the house and adds clippings to his mom's favorite bedtime magazine. When Ralphie accidentally tells his mom (Melinda Dillion) what he really wants for Christmas he is presented with the greatest blow possible. "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!" This quote has become the most famous line of A Christmas Story. Knowing that he has spoken too early in his excitement, he looks for a way to convince his mom that he deserves the Red Ryder gun. This includes scheming to have his schoolteacher persuade his mother that Ralphie needs the gun with his wonderfully written essay on "What I Want for Christmas" as well as going to great lengths to see Santa before Christmas Eve so that he can ask for it in person.
A Christmas Story is mainly about Ralphie's quest, but we do get some side stories in the mix. We see Ralphie, his whiny little brother Randy (Ian Petrella), and his semi-dysfunctional parents prepare for the holidays- buying the Christmas tree, decorating it, shopping for gifts, visiting Santa, the special dinner, and so on. There are side stories about Ralphie's father (Darren McGavin) and his prize Leg Lamp, as well as his amazing swearing ability. There's also the bully, Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) who terrorizes Ralphie and his two friends Flick (Scott Schwartz), and Schwartz (R.D Robb). We learn how a double-dare can be trumped by the ultimate triple-dog-dare. We even discover the answer to the crucial question, "What happens if you stick your tongue to a metal pole in the winter?" All of these moments mixed into the story line of A Christmas Story make it one heck of a memorable movie. So much so that the movie is still played for 24 hours every Christmas day on TNT.
Unfortunately we are given another mediocre video transfer on another Christmas classic. A Christmas Story shines over it's counterpart National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but still fails to be great. For the most part, the colors are sharp, especially the reds. Skin tones took nice throughout, and distance shots look good. When we see outdoor scenes or close-ups, we can definitely see grain, and lots of it. There are even a couple of scenes where you can see a scratch on the film.
Well, what can I say, a Mono track to give us one speaker lovin. From what we are given it is a pretty decent mix with only a few spots where the highs will give you some troubles.
We are actually treated with almost all of the features that are on the 2-disc Special Edition released a couple years back on SD-DVD.
Commentary by Peter Billingsley & Bob Clark: This is a pretty nice commentary track, especially from Director Bob Clark. He really does a great job of explaining the entire process. He fills us in on casting decisions, like how Jack Nicholson was almost cast as Ralphie's father....how they made snow on a limited budget...also some interesting insights on how they made if feel like it was in the 1940's and how still to this day there are people who ask if it was actually shot in the 1940's. I was a little disappointed with commentary by Peter Billingsley though; he doesn't have a lot to say, and when he does it seems like he is bored with the whole thing.
Daisy Red Ryder: A History: This is actually a really fun extra. They take us behind the scenes on the history of the Red Ryder, and also how it is assembled. We also are told that "they are not toys," referring to the Red Ryder Air Gun of course. And learn that they were named after the comic Red Ryder. Definitely worth a watch.
Another Christmas Story: This documentary was first seen on the 2-Disc SD-DVD version, and is a lot of fun quite honestly. Peter Billingsley, Bob Clark, R.D Robb, Scott Schwartz, & Zack Ward all get back together to tell us what it was like shooting A Christmas Story. We get late night stories from the kids as they ordered room service and wake-up calls in the middle of the night for other sleeping cast and crew. There are stories of water balloons over the 14th floor balcony. Bob Clark continues to tell us how professional these kids were and how everything ran so perfectly. Again, definitely worth a watch to gain some insight on the journey behind A Christmas Story.
Get a Leg Up: This is a short documentary on the history of the Leg Lamp. We talk to the creators and the assemblers on how this thing came to life and is such a huge success still today.
Leg Lamp Spot: A funny little commercial for the Leg Lamp.
Script Pages: If you want to read deleted scenes, here you go!
A Christmas Story is another classic Christmas movie. There are so many scenes that continually pop into my memory every holiday season, and I have many friends and family that quote it, laugh about it, and watch it over and over again. It is definitely another Christmas movie that my wife and I watch every year. The sound quality is poor, but the video quality shouldn't hold you back. If you don't own this movie already, this is a must buy. If you own this on SD-DVD already, the Blu-Ray version is a worthy upgrade solely for the reason of it being a classic, and one that you can watch every year...at least once! I Recommend it!